Inside Research Technician Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Interpersonal Skills As Important As Science Know-How...
I was surprised at the number of skills I draw upon every day. In addition to running experiments and collecting data, there is a fair amount of patient interaction, recruitment and retention. Being successful in this field depends equally on skills learned in the classroom as well as communication skills." (Psychology Technician; 2014)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Wisconsin, male
School: Studied School Psychology at The Ohio State University in Ohio; completed Master degree in 2011

"Keep In Contact With Your Professor...
I was surprised that there were not many openings for lab technicians, despite the large number of biotechnology and research laboratories. Definitely remain in contact with your professors after graduation so you can gain professional contacts when entering the field." (Lab Technician; 2014)

Career: 7 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Genetics at UC Davis in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2003

"Life Ruiner...
How hard it is to get a job, how easy it is to be fired, how egotistical the bosses are, how easy it is to be blackballed and have your life ruined. I hate the entire industry." (Research; 2014)

Career: 6 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Psychology at Towson in Maryland; completed Master degree in 2010

"Taking Your Time To Be Precise And Accurate Is Very Important...
What surprised me about my career is how important being methodical and double checking your work is. I have worked other jobs where they prized the fastest workers, but in the job I'm in now, they prize the people who are most accurate and precise in their work, even if it takes extra time to compete a task." (Production Technician; 2014)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Utah, female
School: Studied Microbiology at Weber State University in Utah; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Routine Research Has Impact On People's Lives...
I work in a pediatric cancer research lab. What has surprised me the most is the fact that the families of children who have died from cancer work really hard doing all sorts of fundraisers, and they present my lab with the money they have collected. This money goes straight into research from the people who want a cure the most. It really puts life into perspective, and turns my job from routine lab work to something that is really important." (Laboratory Technician; 2014)

Career: 9 years of experience, currently based in Missouri, female
School: Studied Biology at University Of Missouri - St. Louis in Missouri; completed Bachelor degree in 2004

"Research Is A Never-Ending Challenge...
It can be a rude shock learning how the research world actually works. It's all about publishing as many papers as you can, as fast as you can. You're perpetually seeking your own funding, and hoping the work you're doing at the moment will pan out in time to satisfy your current financial supporters. It's a terrible and stressful setup and I don't think it's sustainable. We've also been heavily impacted by the sequester, and I know people who have lost years of work because of it. There's almost no money to be had in research, but you have to be the most educated, enthusiastic and innovative. It's unfortunate that those who do scientific research are the ones who really care, and are doing things that actually matter, but get paid the least." (Research Scientist; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Wisconsin, female
School: Studied Biotechnology at UW Madison in Wisconsin; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Difficult To Find A Job...
I was surprised at how difficult it can be to get a job in academia, even if one is not looking for a faculty position." (Research Technician II; 2014)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in North Carolina, female
School: Studied Psychology at University Of North Carolina Greensboro in North Carolina; completed Bachelor degree in 2010

"Many Jobs Available...
Most people are surprised with the vast opportunities that are available with research. Not only can you work in the sciences but work I the field of business at market research firms." (Research; 2014)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, male
School: Studied Psychology at University Of Illinois in Illinois; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Science Jobs Hard To Find...
Most people are surpassed by how we are paid in science careers. We are mostly dependent on grant money from the government or an outside agency. Thanks to all the government budget cuts many labs are losing funding and jobs." (Scientist; 2014)

Career: 15 years of experience, currently based in Kentucky, female
School: Studied Neuropsychology at Queens College in New York; completed Master degree in 1999

"Wide Variety Of Opportunities...
I was surprised about the variety of opportunities in the food science field. So far, I have spent the majority of my career working for a retailer, which I did not expect. This was a great opportunity for learning about many different types of foods. Most jobs that I learned about while I was in school were in food manufacturing." (Food Technologist - Product Development; 2014)

Career: 8 years of experience, currently based in Ohio, female
School: Studied Food Science at Michigan State University in Michigan; completed Bachelor degree in 2005

"Pay Is Not As Good As People Think It Is...
I was surprised at the low pay that a laboratory technician gets. You also don't really get to move up in your field without a more advanced degree, although if you work long enough you might eventually start getting your own projects." (Laboratory Technician; 2014)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Alabama, male
School: Studied Biochemistry at University Of California San Diego in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2009

"Hundreds Of Thousands Of Kilobytes Of Data...
Many people may be surprised to know that clinical data management doesn't have to involve boxes and boxes of paperwork but more often involves hundreds of thousands of kilobytes of data files. Data managers work to ensure statisticians have clean data for their analysis." (Data Manager; 2014)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Missouri, female
School: Studied Science Education at University Of Central Missouri in Missouri; completed Bachelor degree in 2011

"Science Careers Are High Reward With Low Pay...
I was surprised how at the high turn-over rate for employees in this field. I was also surprised to find out that careers in environmental science are low-paying jobs." (Scientist; 2014)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in North Dakota, female
School: Studied Environmental Science at Miami University in Ohio; completed Master degree in 2011

"I was surprised how much technology and simple use of Microsoft Word is involved in my position. I am constantly using it to fulfill my work tasks whether it be creating surveys, making slide presentations, or creating new documents." (Research Tech; 2013)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Michigan, female
School: Studied Health Care Administration at University Of Michigan in Michigan; completed Bachelor degree in 2011

"I was surprised with how much of my English writing education was used in a research job. I had to write proposals in paper styles I studied, as well as utilize the editing techniques I received from school." (Research Assistant; 2012)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Virginia, male
School: Studied English, Journalism at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia; completed Bachelor degree in 2011

Career Background

Research Technician

  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Tips

"Practice Lab Techniques And Learn The Reasons Behind Them...
My career tip for a job in microbiology would be to make sure your lab skills are solid. Practice techniques until they become second nature and make sure you know the reason behind each step of the protocol." (Production Technician; 2014)

"Career Contacts And Satisfaction Are Connected...
Make as many meaningful contacts as possible both inside and outside your career field. Do not be afraid to stand up for yourself and work on projects that are most important to you." (Scientist; 2014)

"Diverse Skills Required...
A background in programming or a willingness to learn will diversify your skills and make you not only more productive but also more self sufficient. Also, being able to do many things at once, well, is essential. Data Management involves a countless number of tasks which change daily, repeat infrequently, and must be executed quickly. Being open to many different areas of work is essential." (Data Manager; 2014)

"Find A Pharmaceutical Job...
If you want a career in science you would be better off trying to find a job at a pharmaceutical or drug development company. There is no job stability in academia." (Scientist; 2014)

"Don't Pigeonhole Yourself...
While people will always need to eat, food trends change quickly (lo-carb anyone?), and can cause a shortage of jobs in specific fields. Get a variety of experience early on, rather than focusing on one specific field to ensure that you will always have career opportunities in the future." (Food Technologist - Product Development; 2014)

"Do Research In Undergrad...
If you are interested in being a technician, I would do explore undergraduate research opportunities. Research can be boring at times and is not for everyone so it is good to know if you like it or not before you graduate." (Laboratory Technician; 2014)

"Networking Is Always Important...
If you are going to be a laboratory technician, I suggest being kind and respectful to everyone you meet who relates to the sciences. There is no telling when you may need to use your networking skills to engage a contact for some assistance." (Laboratory Technician; 2014)

"Run Away...
Get a different career. Get any other career." (Research; 2014)

"Speak With Professors To Join Research Projects...
If you want to be a competitive candidate for a career in research, it is vital to gain as much experience as possible. Working part-time with your educators on research projects is an excellent way to gain invaluable experience while working towards a degree." (Psychology Technician; 2014)

Make sure you follow the standard operating procedures or protocols in your laboratory. Doing so ensures the best results or products, and many times the product is something essential to the rest of your work. For example, if the pH of your media solution is not what it should be, that media can't be used to grow cells or tissue in your lab." (Lab Technician; 2014)

"Get To Know Faculty & Grad Students...
If you want to work in an academic setting, sign up for a lot of research assistant hours while you're in school and make friends with graduate students and faculty members. Appropriately socialize with them so that they can recommend you to their colleagues who are looking for job candidates." (Research Technician II; 2014)

"Find Experience In College...
If you want to be successful in research you should get as much experience as you can in college. There are plenty of professors looking for assistants, some will even give college credit." (Research; 2014)

"Making It In Research...
If you want to succeed in research, go to as many scientific conferences and do as many internships as you can. Do what you're enthusiastic about, as you'll need that enthusiasm to tide you over when you're looking for investors and when projects just aren't working." (Research Scientist; 2013)